GOBABIS: Omaheke Regional Education Director Nathalia Goagoses has urged parents in the region not to give indigenous home languages the cold shoulder in favour of English when choosing a medium of instruction at lower-primary school level.
Goagoses told Nampa on Wednesday that some parents force English as a medium of instruction onto their children in lower-primary Grades 1 to 4), which often places huge learning burdens on the child.
She said the importance of local languages as a medium of instruction for children starting school cannot be over-emphasised, adding that the Ministry of Education has been encouraging the teaching of learners at that age in their mother-tongue as it provides an easier and firm basis for their studies during later years.
The education director said parents should do away with the notion that speaking English denotes intelligence and good progress in school for children, as experience has shown the opposite in many cases.
“It is vital that a child be taught in his or her mother-tongue during the formative years of school, as it allows for much better performance. There is just no truth in the arguments that a child has to speak English to be perceived as being smart.
Just look around you; how many of the world’s greatest leaders could not grasp English, yet they went on to achieve great feats?” she said, adding that home languages should therefore be encouraged as a mode of instruction “to the maximum”.
Goagoses also said statistics have shown that due to the fact that many children in the Omaheke Region live with their grandparents – most of whom are not English-literate – in rural areas, their progress in school has been a major struggle.
English, being the country’s official language, is also used as a secondary language in lower-primary, even when the elective is a home language, as provided for by the line Ministry.
“English is never lost to the learners. Even in cases where the medium of instruction is an indigenous language, some instructions are also given in English as a secondary mode of instruction,” she explained.
The Education Director said children usually find it easier to learn a new language if they are well-vested in their mother tongues.
A United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEFreport titled ‘Improving Quality and Equity in Education in Namibia: a Trend and Gap Analysis’ released in 2011 found that a vast majority of San learners and most ruGciriku-speaking learners are not being catered for in terms of home language as a medium of instruction at lower-primary levels.
According to the report, the situation is a direct result of a lack of will to implement the national language policy, and a lack of means to do so.
Schools in the Omaheke Region offer Afrikaans, Otjiherero, Oshindonga, Setswana and Khoe-khoegowab as home languages that can serve as medium of instruction for lower primary.